Violence against women and girls is the most widespread human rights violation in Australia and the world, with approximately one in four having experienced physical and/or sexualised violence by an intimate partner. The most common characteristic shared by survivors is their gender, and people who perpetrate are predominantly male.
Children and young people are frequently overlooked but suffer greatly, with one child a fortnight dying in the context of domestic and family violence (DFV). Many first experience abuse in utero: 1 in 4 women who experience DFV are abused for the first time when pregnant. Stopping the contagion requires that the impact on children is identified and responded to early. Many women separate from abusive partners to protect children, only to find that their children are exposed to unsupervised time with ex-partners who often continue the pattern of abuse, through their child.
Parental alienation’s origins begin in the 1980s with a rogue psychiatrist named Richard Gardner. Gardner had an unusual obsession with child sexual abuse. He believed that there were certain natural sexual inclinations between adults and children, and that modern societies were engaged in unnecessary hysterics over paedophillia. In order to prevent fathers from facing any consequences for child sexual abuse, he invented a concept called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) to be used in courtrooms. His goal was to prevent accusations by mothers of child abuse by fathers from being believed.
The power of PA is that it seems like a reasonable concept; you can imagine scenarios where one parent acts to exclude another. Yet PA has instead become a smokescreen, a tactic to obfuscate custody hearings and garner sympathy from judges and custody evaluators who may have an instinctive suspicion towards women. Its objective is to make abusive men the victims and protective mothers the perpetrators. Although PA proponents use gender-neutral language, empirical studies have demonstrated that its impact is gender-specific.
Although there is an obvious grift taking place, the PA industry’s growth has also been due to its main philosophical driver. This is the belief that children require equal access to both parents for a healthy upbringing, and that this should take precedence over any violent behaviour. Once the court submits itself to this idea, any action a mother takes to protect her children from an abusive father is deemed an act of “alienation”. Women’s expected obligations are now not to her children’s welfare, but to facilitating contact with a father, regardless of his behaviour.
This is making it almost impossible for women to protect their children from men who they know are dangerous.Including an amendment that would make PA a form of abuse itself will further entrench accusations of “alienation” as an instrument to manipulate the courts. The state will willingly allow itself to become a weapon that abusive men can use against their children and former partners. It will have fully submitted itself to this repugnant market.
Coronial findings into the murder of two Sydney teenagers, and the failure of government agencies to stop their abusive father, are due for release this week.
A September 2020 inquest was told that despite Edwards’ 40-year history of violence and abuse towards his six former partners and 10 estranged children, police had not charged him with any offence since 1998 and approved his gun licence in 2017.
The experience of the children and Olga in the Family Court was heavily scrutinised after a lawyer tasked with representing the children’s best interests initially advocated for Edwards to see his children weekly.
The inquest has been told the Edwards children spoke of their father’s violence to several health professionals and experts involved in the court proceedings.
But the independent children’s lawyer said the teenagers hadn’t raised those concerns with her before she pushed for weekly access visits.
She defended not telling the family court months later that Jennifer wanted an explicit order forbidding her father from contacting her, saying judges and magistrates had previously told her not to disclose a child’s actual wish in court.
Ms O’Sullivan’s findings are expected to be damning about Sydney police officers’ failures to adequately record or act on Olga’s reports of Edwards’ stalking of her and past abuse of Jack and Jennifer.
In our recent research, we argued strict masculinity norms can emerge when men vastly outnumber women. This is due to competition increasing and intensifying among men because there are fewer women to partner with.
This can intensify violence, bullying, and intimidating behaviours that, once entrenched in local culture, continue to manifest themselves long after sex ratios have normalised.
We tested this hypothesis using data the convict colonisation of Australia. In just under 100 years, between 1787 and 1868, Britain transported 132,308 convict men and only 24,960 convict women to Australia. Migrants were also mostly male. So, there were far more men than women in Australia until well into the 20th century.
We used historical census data and combined them with current data on violence, sexual and domestic assault, suicide and bullying in schools. From that, we were able to see the regions with significantly more men than women back in convict times still experience problems today. This is even when we account for the influence of the total number of convicts, geographic characteristics, and present-day characteristics of these regions, including education, religion, urbanisation and income.
Our research also shows assault and sexual assault are much higher today in parts of Australia that were more male in the colonial past. We also find much higher rates of bullying among boys in schools, as reported by parents or teachers.
There is every reason to think any place where males dominate can create these issues. Be it in parliaments, offices, schools, or sports teams. Recent allegations out of parliament house, petitions denouncing thousands of sexual assaults by private schools boys, and continued claims of sexual assaults by NRL players prove exactly the point.
The federal government has ruled out key recommendations from a major review into the family courts.
The government has released its response to an Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry into family law.
The government rejected the commission’s call for the establishment of state and territory family courts and child protection laws.
The government acknowledged the recommendation proposed one way to fix the “broken” split court system.
“But the alternative structure it proposes represents radical change to the federal, state and territory court systems and in the best possible scenario, would take years to fully implement, and in the most likely case scenario would not succeed past the early stages,” it said.
The government also rejected a proposal to repeal laws requiring the courts to consider allowing children to spend significant time with each parent.
In its response, the government agreed wholly, in principle or in part with 35 recommendations.
It noted six recommendations and disagreed with six.
Senior lecturer in politics at the Australian National University Maria Maley said Mr Falinski’s comments showed the government was trying to spin a new narrative on why he didn’t attend the protests.
“The government is desperately trying to change the narrative about what happened with the PM not attending or meeting the marchers,” Dr Maley said.
“What that implies though, is that the women who were gathering to raise these issues were posing a threat to him.
“It puts him in the position of victim.”
In the past week many commentators, including the ABC’s Laura Tingle, have juxtaposed Mr Morrison’s response to that of former PM John Howard, who fronted a crowd of angry pro-gun demonstrators in 1996 following the Port Arthur Massacre.
Inconsistent tenancy laws across Australia are making it difficult for women and children experiencing domestic violence to leave and find new housing, new research shows.
Currently, only New South Wales and Western Australia have processes in place that allow family and domestic violence victims and survivors to break a tenancy at short notice without involving the police or court system.
Across other states and territories, though, if a domestic violence survivor flees their home, they can be blacklisted and put on a database of bad tenants, which cuts off their ability to find a new rental.
An estimated 41 per cent of people accessing homelessness services are victims of family domestic violence.
Professor Webb said other states must follow suit – but she highlighted that ending a lease was just the beginning for many victim-survivors.
“It is almost like a cruel hoax,” she said.
“Yes, then they can get out of the immediate violence, but there’s nothing there for them. Refuges are oversubscribed and it is difficult to get affordable housing.
- A parliamentary inquiry has made 29 recommendations to the government
- Most recommendations were backed by all committee members, across the Coalition, Labor, Greens and crossbench
- The inquiry came after dozens of reviews into the broken family law system
The inquiry dismissed concerns “false allegations” of family violence were widespread and used against men in court disputes — a position long advocated by Senator Hanson.
“The committee accepts that this does happen on occasion but does not agree with the notion that this is prevalent within the family law system,” the report said.
One of the committee findings was to clarify one of the most controversial elements of the Family Law Act, “to address the current misunderstanding of the provision that equal shared parental responsibility equates to equal time with the children”.
Mr Perrett introduced a private member’s bill to Parliament to address the issue last year, inspired by the murder of Brisbane woman Hannah Clarke and her three children.
The bill would remove the presumption of equal shared parenting responsibility from the Family Law Act.
Mr Perrett argued the law currently puts parents on equal footing in custody arguments, which can incentivise abusive partners to take parenting disputes through the courts.
Her caseload includes survivors of abuse who acted in self-defense or in defense of their children, as well as women forced or coerced to assist their abuser in committing a crime. Sometimes they are women diagnosed with postpartum depression.
White-Domain recently earned release for a woman sentenced to six years in prison for stealing items worth less than $300, arguing that the punishment was too severe when balanced against the harm of family separation.
Since getting funding last year the Women and Survivors Project has represented 30 clients in 15 clemency petitions, 14 administrative advocacy cases, four resentencing cases, one post-conviction case, and one appeal.So far, five women have been released. Collectively that has added up to about 30 years of incarceration saved, White-Domain said.
The Women and Survivors Project, believed to be a rare full-time practice dedicated these specific kinds of post-conviction cases, was built on the work of a small number of Chicago attorneys who three decades ago began working on such complicated cases pro bono, mentoring and training a younger generation along the way.
Their work, Byrne said, grew out of research on domestic violence and also from firsthand observations. Byrne watched how the criminal system failed to see self-defense from a female perspective, such as the effect ongoing battering has on a person’s state of mind and perception of danger.
In 2020, the Albert & Anne Mansfield Foundation awarded White-Domain a grant to continue at the Illinois Prison Project, the statewide advocacy organization where she currently works. The Women and Survivors Project remains small — she is the only full-time attorney — but the grant could provide leverage to secure more funding.
On an isolated rural property in New South Wales, a man has been keeping six women as sex slaves. One of his former partners is speaking out in a bid to help them and encourage others to come forward. Warning: This story contains descriptions of extreme violence and sexual abuse.
Davis was a prolific online writer, publishing dozens of lengthy posts on fetish websites describing his philosophy on “psychologically conditioning” his slaves “to be 100% dependant [sic]”.
He wrote about finding women willing to be “subjected to the abuses and traumas of the Stockholm syndrome like [sic] effects of enslavement” and described a “death protocol” which involved passing the “ownership” of his slaves to other men if he should die.
Sex worker advocate Lucy Price was shown some of the videos, as well as even more graphic content that wasn’t shared publicly.
Ms Price was so worried she messaged one of the women living at the Armidale house.
One of the women living with Davis responded that everything he did was consensual.
“We ensure that each person has autonomous, enthusiastic and informed consent,” she replied.
Ms Price was shocked at the response.
“Absolutely there’s no way, no-one would consent to being smashed in the head that violently, to the point where your head is like jolted. I don’t even know if she was even completely responsive,” she said.
Four Corners can also reveal Davis had a group of like-minded men who he was training to subjugate women.
The group used social media to recruit more female followers.
Cult expert Mr Ross said Davis appeared to be trying to “franchise” his sex cult.
Davis’s closest confidant and right-hand man was Joshua Clinch. He posted on social media about Davis’s mentorship and boasted of his plans to set up his own slave house.
Four Corners spoke to one woman Clinch tried to recruit to join a “chateau of submissive women in western Sydney” in late 2019.